There is a stillness that permeates Une Jeune Fille (A Journey), the fourth film by Québécois director Catherine Martin. Martin takes her time with the slowly unfurling minimalist narrative and revels in gorgeous long takes of the Gaspé region – a coastal, rural area in Québec, Canada.
The film centres on Anne-Marie (who has renamed herself from Chantal in a bid to recreate herself), a young woman who, upon the death of her mother, heads to the Gaspé Peninsula. Anne-Marie is in search of a beach she saw in a picture that her mother showed her before she died. She wanders aimlessly without shelter, unable to find the beach until she encounters Serge, a tree farmer. Serge gives her a place to stay indefinitely and then offers her a job working in his woodlot. Anne-Marie begins to fall in love with the forest and the rugged beauty of the farm, as she finds meaning in the physical labour of harvesting the trees and working around the woodlot. Their similar dispositions bond Anne-Marie and Serge. The two are both outsiders who have trouble relating to the world and find comfort in each other’s silence, especially when the outside world – in the form of Serge’s sister who wants to sell the woodlot – intrudes and threatens the peace they have created.
The cinematography is absolutely stunning in this film. Any frame could be a stand-alone image in its own right. The camera is remarkably patient, holding many beautiful scenes for minutes. But none of the film is showy. Martin creates a gorgeous work of minimalism. There are many shots of just the backs of the two main characters’ heads as they take in the landscape. We begin to see the world through their eyes – the way the rolling hills or trees swaying in the breeze captivate them. Outside of the rare subtle strings, there is almost no non-diagetic music, and this enhances the stillness of the scenes.
Though an influence from meditative French filmmakers like Robert Bresson is evident, in Une Jeune Fille, Catharine Martin creates a unique and peaceful world all its own where two shy misfits find solace in each other’s company.
A Journey / Une Jeune Fille is distributed by K-Films Amérique.